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O’Neill’s leadership, corruption & the ICAC election gimmick


PETER O’ Neill became the seventh prime minister of Papua New Guinea in August 2011 when Parliament ousted Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, in Singapore for medical treatment, in a political coup.

Parliament, claiming to use its supreme powers, voted in Peter O’ Neill amongst much controversy without due respect to parliamentary democratic process and the national Constitution.

Parliamentarians had the choice of Peter O’Neill’s group or Sam Abal’s pro-Somare group. Most Somare supporters broke ranks and sided with O’Neill. Somare’s legitimate government crumbled during the chaos.

Intimidation, interference, coercion, bickering, threats, party-hopping, strong-arming, bullying and other tactics to install the new leaders of the illegal government became the order of the day.

The argument was that Sir Michael Somare had not been active as the country’s prime minister for more than eight months. O’Neill’s group contended that Parliament could elect a new prime minister when the incumbent is absent from the country for such a period of time.

After Somare’s return, he started court proceedings to rule on O’Neill’s actions. The court found that O’Neill and his government’s ousting of Somare was illegal and unconstitutional.

But there was no shame or guilt from those who orchestrated this illegal parliamentary coup. Some politicians even boasted publicly that they had been key players during the takeover.

A few parliamentarians, who had been exceptional leaders, became disillusioned at the power struggle and the illegal methods used, and decided against contesting the 2012 election. It was a big loss for the country and national politics.

As prime minister, O’Neill promised to establish an independent body to fight corruption, somethingo Somare did not do during his term as prime minister and something he was supposed to do after PNG gained independence.

Sir Mekere Morauta has been PNG’s only prime minister to admit that corruption is systemic at all levels. No prime minister before or since has admitted this or done anything concrete about it.

As prime minister in 2012, O’Neill promised to create an Independent Commission Against Corruption or ICAC.

As a public servant who was following closely the political crisis and its aftermath, I considered this announcement the most important decision of any prime minister since independence.

This is what the country needed so badly. Corruption is destroying our country and has become an accepted social norm because no political leadership since independence made addressing it a national priority.

O’Neill and his party came to power in 2012 with a policy to fight corruption by creating ICAC. He also received praise for the investigations carried out by Task Force Sweep headed by lawyer, Sam Koim.

But when the investigations implicated him, he sidelined Koim, a true patriot, and disbanded the anti-corruption team: a move that left the people with more questions than answers.

It’s been some years now since O’Neill mooted the establishment of ICAC. An idea which I believe helped give him and his party a huge win because of people’s emotions at the time of the 2012 election.

PNG badly needs an independent anti-corruption body such as ICAC with the jurisdiction to investigate, arrest and prosecute those involve in corruption and high level crimes. The body should operate with no interference from the political or law enforcement hierarchy.

O’Neill is the first prime minister since independence to take power by illegal means and he has subsequently failed to honour his election promise to fight the corruption that is destroying the country from within.

He is also accused of corruption and is yet to clear his name.

The opposition and those speaking out against his leadership have been told to wait for the national elections in 2017 to challenge the government.

As 2017 closes in, O’ Neill’s promise to deliver the ICAC to the people has not materialised. People should start waking from their slumber.


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Raymond Sigimet

Parliament passed the ICAC Bill yesterday. Thank you to all the members of parliament who voted in support. Thank you also to the people who drafted this Bill. Papua New Guinea let's fight against this evil called corruption.

Steve Gallagher

I agree with you, O'Neill appointed as prime minister was illegal, our constitution was made useless

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